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Wayne Hancock does it his way

By Rick Teverbaugh, October 2001

While it takes absolutely no time at all to determine that Wayne Hancock wouldn't be a fan of Frank Sinatra, he would certainly have to admire the sentiments in a song like "My Way."

Hancock, a 36-year-old throwback to the traditional country sound and habits of Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers, is making music where and how he wants without regard for how many people are attracted to his style and attitude.

He recently released his third full-length CD, "A Town Blues," his first for Bloodshot. Hancock has strong feelings about what the relationship should be between a record company and an artist. "It is their job to sell records, and it is mine to make them," says Hancock. "I have a lot of main control. I do it the way I want. They (Bloodshot) don't have the record company disease where they think they have to have control over my music."

One of his past labels, Ark 21, seemed to be at odds with that view, at least according to Hancock.

Hancock recorded "That's What Daddy Wants" there four years ago. "They wanted to make me LeAnn Rimes," says Hancock. "They wanted me to sing with LeAnn Rimes. There weren't a lot of people over there with a lot of intelligence about those things."

Hancock makes no secret of how he feels about mainstream country music today and many of the artists who are getting played on the radio.

"Most singers today must be in it because they want to make big money," he says. "They make music that's designed to sell a lot of records. Their lives are very different from ours."

By "ours," Hancock is referring to the average blue-collar worker. He is proud that type of person is a big part of his audience.

"I'm never going to be a wealthy person," says Hancock. "The people I attract dig ditches and mow grass. You won't find anybody drive their Ferrari down to my show. Those are the kind of crowds I deal with."

Those crowds have been consistently supportive during his current tour. "We've pretty much been selling out most of the shows," he says. "I've been making about $2,000 a night. It's enough for me to stay out of trouble and off the street."

He also feels that today's stars aren't giving their fans true value for that high-priced ticket. "I think they are ripping off the American public," says Hancock. "They usually play an hour or so. I charge $12 a ticket and play two sets. I play from 75 minutes to three hours. My longest show was about six hours. I don't think most of today's country artists would play where I do."

He uses the example of BR5-49. "They started out at Robert's, and I don't think it was to get discovered," says Hancock. "Unfortunately for them, they did get discovered."

The Texas native once had other ideas about getting discovered. It was 10 years ago when he moved to Austin with plans to succeed in the music business.

But like one of his stylistic heroes, Hank Williams, he had a problem with alcohol and with not knowing very much about the music business. Both got him into trouble. One of them earned him a reputation for being uncooperative, and the other locked him into a business contract that wasn't to the betterment of his career.

One big break came in 1994 when he joined the stage production of "Chippy," replacing Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Also in that cast were Joe Ely and Terry Allen. Hancock's song "Thunderstorms & Neon Signs" was included in that show's soundtrack.

The next year that song provided the title for his Dejadisc (a now defunct Texas label) release. "We recorded that in just a couple of weeks," he says. "It wasn't bad considering I had laryngitis when it was recorded. Most people can't tell it because I've got a pretty good voice. But I can hear it places."

The disc was a critical hit in what then was the very new sub-genre being called "alternate country." That led to a number of labels seeking out his services, and he decided upon Ark 21 for the '97 release of "That's What Daddy Wants." Though he has always been active as a live performer, it wasn't until he hooked up with Bloodshot that he released his third full-length product in September.

"I like it," says Hancock of "A Town Blues." "I like it as well or better than anything I've ever recorded."

He recorded it in familiar territory, in a very economic way and with a big-name producer, Lloyd Maines.

It was put down at Cedar Creek Recording in Austin, the same place he recorded "Thunderstorms." "It's a very warm sounding place," he explains.

Yet, it was the manner in which the disc was recorded that meant the most to Hancock. "I just walked in with about 30 songs I'd written over the past three years songs out of my song stack," he says. "The musicians hadn't played them before. I just put the stack down and said, 'This is it.' Most songs on the album are two takes. A few are one. Most of the vocals are the originals."

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